Monday, April 18, 2011

Like Water Off A Duck's Back

God's creative genius never ceases to amaze me. I always enjoy being in the outdoors to hunt or fish and, the older I get, just to observe nature. God speaks to us in this venue. During the frigid winter, one of the most fantastic of the creative wonders to witness is the waterfowl. Ducks and geese are worthy of leading the class of instruction.

It seems that when it gets too cold and nasty for every other creature, these majestic birds appear to relish the rough elements. They were made by God to do so. They secret oils that help to protect them to the degree that the rain and sleet does not affect them at all. You've heard the saying, "Like water off a duck's back." Well...we could all use a bit of that ability.

To be honest, it takes a good deal of character to let somethings roll off our back. The natural response is to, well, ...respond. Recall when the posse came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Their attack of the Saviour brought a response which cost a soldier his ear....for a moment at least. Jesus healed the man and in doing so, was teaching Peter that there are some things that you need to let roll off your back.

Nothing stings like false accusation! Been the T-shirt! Nothing stings like verbal attacks against your own family. Another T-shirt! Each of these touch us to the core causing us to want to respond, to get the truth out, to set these idiots straight! Know the feeling? Most of the time our responses only cause more trouble. God is the one who can bring the proper vindication.

All we can do is stay humble and know that truth will always.....always triumph over falsehoods. Let their comments, their narrow minded words speak for themselves. They become self-labeling billboards of trouble. As for the child of God, we use the 'oil' of the Spirit to prevent their words from penetrating our souls. The environments that would bring others down, cause severe anger, etc....becomes the environment of our success. We were made to triumph over all these things.

Next time the words of hate, of jealousy, of destruction rain down....just don't let it get to you and soon you will be singing a tune in the rain. Just let it roll off! It is what you were made for.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Missions...There and Here

Having recently returned from a missions trip to Guatemala, I am renewed in my passion for helping God's finest creation, mankind, in whatever way I can. My daughter and I spent a week on the mission field serving in various capacities. We certainly had many opportunities for ministry in the traditional sense, but we also spent time with simple humanitarian aid.

Our focus was specifically with the poorest of the poor. We served those who live at the dump in Guatemala City. It touches me deeply to witness the deplorable conditions in which people around exist. It was heart warming to assist in building six new dwellings for folks. While our efforts seemed small among so many, I was reminded of one of God's principles during the process.

One day, while down on my knees digging a whole with a chisel and hammer, I contemplated how little difference this was making in the world condition. It seemed that I was impressed that my job was not to change the world, but to dig that hole that would uphold a 4x4 timber which would support a beam that would support a roof. It all works together. All each of us have to do is, what is right before us and, together, we can change the world.

Guatemala is a beautiful country with beautiful people. They were so sweet and loving to us. The children we served wrap around one's heart in an instant. It makes me want to bring a bunch of them home with me. Speaking of home, we live on a mission field right here. Every day we have the same opportunities the missionaries around the world have. We can serve, share, and witness to lost people. Every soul is worth the same to God!

If you are able to go on a missions trip overseas, I urge you to do so. It will change your life. If you are not able to go to the foreign field, then realize you can make a difference where you are. Missions is both there and here.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Too Busy

Everyone is busy. It doesn't really matter what time of year, there is always some seasonal rush. It is either Christmas season with it's parties, shopping, family trips etc, or it is the season of summer with yards to keep up, home improvements to accomplish etc. Spring and Fall do not escape unscathed either. Easter, gardening, Thanksgiving, and a myriad of other 'to-do's' certainly press the schedule.

There are other seasons too. The seasons of life contribute their demands on life. In youth, the social scene is always calling to the next movie, next get-together, next church event. Young adult life adds the realization that money doesn't grow on trees and so education and jobs start their encroachments on our time budget.

Soon marriage leads to the phase of family. It is difficult to place into words the time stress that occurs during the family phase for the simple reason that children cause us to blend a variety of schedules. Little Johnny has ball practice on Saturday and band rehearsal on Tuesday and an appointment with the doctor on Thursday and a Sunday School outing on Monday, and a Cub Scout cookout on Friday. Get the picture? That doesn't include your personal schedule and the need to keep marriage flourishing by giving that one...all-valuable gift...time!

Mid-life, the transition of all transitions, leads to the moving children into their own lives...their own families, whilst balancing the main portion of one's career. This is the season of using wisdom to volunteer, to lend a hand and hope not play all your 'hand' in the process.

The 'Silver Season', the one you thought would be relaxed by the fishing hole...may be has busy as any of them. More and more, grandparents lend a hand in the needs of their children and their families. And just when you thought you had gone to your last recital, or band contest, or football game. Your grandkids compel you to fill the squares on the planner with times, events and another hectic season of life.

Yes, life is busy. One has to find a way to say 'no' to the unimportant items of life and shield your time from erosion by non-important things. I noted some advice given to a person assigned to prison for an extended period of time, "Do the time, don't let the time do you!" That may be some good advice for those of us living in the prison of busy-ness.

In all of your planning, plan for some down time...some time to regroup, refocus, and relax. Just don't get too busy!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

True Worshipers!

The word 'Truth' evokes mental images of some authoritative figure declaring they have all the understanding of God. Jesus, God in flesh stated unequivocally, "I am the Truth." If one could boast of knowing all the truth, they would have to boast of knowing all of God.

The Bible tells us that God's ways are unsearchable and beyond our comprehension. Paul writes of the depths of the riches of the knowledge of God and His ways are unfathomable. I heard on the news this morning that someone is actually trying to count the stars! I had to laugh. They haven't even found all the galaxies yet. Last I heard there were more than 90 billion galaxies with more than 90 billion stars in each galaxy! The point is, man cannot comprehend the number of stars much less count them. And while there is much of God we can know, there is so much that we will not know until we get to see Him face to face. This dark glass of humanity, prohibits the complete view.

With that said, may I turn your attention to John 4:15-24? Especially the part that says, true worshipers will worship in spirit and in truth. We can easily understand that to worship in spirit means worship is more than lip service. Jesus bemoaned the fact that some make noise with their lips but their heart is far from me. Spirited worship is the kind that emanates from our souls on Tuesday as well as Sunday. Worship is a lifestyle. If we are in love with God, that fact spills from our mouths and oozes from the pores of our skin. I believe God accepts worship from those who have never even seen a bible...but reach to Him with the limited knowledge and inner tug they feel within their souls. This is 'spirit' worship. Whether in silence or at the top of your lungs, worship needs to be spirited. Know that the word spirit here is not a capital S, but a small s...meaning our human spirit. You can then stop waiting on the Holy Spirit to shake you like a ragdoll. Spirited worship is from the human spirit.

The second vital factor for a true worshiper is they must worship in truth. I want to drill down on this point. What truth exactly is the writer talking about? You know as well as I do, that every church on the street claims to preach the truth...the whole truth and nothing but the truth!!! They thump their pulpits and declare that their way is the right way and everyone else is in darkness and the rapture will settle the score! It is so pompous of man to even make such a boast. In truth, there is so little difference between brand A and brand B that it is ridiculous. Yet we draw our denominational lines and refuse to fellowship with the church down the street because they don't see it as we do. Often it is pure semantics, or the way we say things, that separates men. One says, "I'm Oneness," the other says, "I'm trinitarian" and both of them are monotheists! Both of them believe Jesus is Lord, Messiah. By majoring on minors, pretending to have the 'truth' we push one another away and forbid the answer to Christ's prayer in John 17..."That they may be one!"

Look closely at the passage in John 4. The Samaritan woman was told by Christ of her past. She made a bold proclamation, "You are a prophet!" Well, she was wrong! Jesus was not a prophet, He was the Messiah! But Jesus didn't rebuke her because she was wrong. Further, the woman tried to play the religious heritage card on Him. "Our fathers worshiped in this mountain!" Again Jesus was not rattled by her religion. He simply stated, you worship what you do not know! I have to tell you there is a bit of that involved in all of our worship. There are parts about God that I do not know....but I worship anyway. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the truth part of a true worshiper. Like the Samaritan woman, we all have our mountains. We like to express the way we were taught....the way we think it should be....the way we were explained the scripture. This to us is 'truth'. Reality says, truth is much bigger than the mountain your father's worshiped around. Truth involves admitting questions.

If you can still worship with are a true worshiper. If exalting God becomes greater than exalting your religious stance, then you are a true worshiper. If you can accept God's will for your life, even when it hurts, even when it is not convenient, even when it brings tears...then you are a true worshiper. Hebrews states, "Jacob worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff." No healing, no answered prayer, lots of pain....but true worship. Get it? The Father seeks those who worship in spirit and truth.

At last Jesus said, "There will come a day when you will not worship me in this mountain or in Jerusalem." What He was saying is, there will be a day when your personal religious mountains will fall down and we will worship God for who He is...questions and all!! When we all get to heaven, as the old hymn poses, there will be a good deal of reconciliation to be had. When the Baptist walks in beside the Pentecostal, and the Methodist enters with the Presbyterian...and suddenly we realize God was not looking to save a denomination, but to save and win for Himself a bride! The bride will be those who love their Lord and in truth admit they do not have all the answers. This is true worship.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Legalism in Every Religion

If the word 'legalism' makes you cringe a little, chances are you are on the side of the religious fence which believes your salvation has a direct connect to something you 'do'. Many of you know of a personal journey that I went on a few years ago to study the legalistic side of my own brand of religion. The end result was, I discovered that for me to 'do' anything with regard to my salvation, other than enact my faith, was detracting from the greatest work of time and eternity...the cross of Christ.

Upon my exodus from a religious framework I found a host of people who God had led along the very same pathway. My religious past insisted on upholding specific, non-scriptural codes as tests of fellowship in the brotherhood, and more importantly, as a test to see if one was saved or not. Being taught these things from a child, they were deeply embedded within my thinking. Still, there was considerable internal stress of having to preach what the religion expected and finding more and more discrepancy with the scripture.

Grace is a powerful thing! Salvation is a gift! The Holy Spirit is a gift. Somehow religion, for their own control purposes, have abused the Word of God to manipulate people away from Grace and into their own rule-book. Depending on the religion, they can tell you everything from what food to eat, to what day to worship, to what to wear, to who you can date, and the list is endless! In my opinion, these stiff rules are enticing to those who, by personality, need a strong leader and someone to tell them what to do, etc. On the other hand, it pushes away so many people who may be genuinely hungry for the Lord but are unwilling to yield their intellect to the whims of men when they can plainly read the Word for themselves.

Legalism infiltrates every arm of religion. There will forever be the conservative and the liberal, no matter which branch of the tree you choose to travel. In Adventism, there are those who are liberal enough to eat chicken occasionally, and are scorned by those who are strict vegetarian. In the Amish community, there are those who refuse any and all modern conveniences and these hold a level of chagrin for the liberals who allow for a light in their milk barn, or wear a hat with a ribbon on it. In Holiness churches there are those who preach hot and heavy concerning ladies cutting their hair or wearing slacks. The liberal is willing to concede some of these, especially on vacation etc.

From a distance, it all looks the same, only the issue is different. They all have their Old Testament verses...they all harp on a particular view of them....they all have camps.....they all speak one thing in public and a different thing around the table of their peers....they all have secret questions....and most will not buck the system b/c it infringes upon the safety of their status, their income, or both.

So what then is important. I firmly believe God's Word is true, is pure and is powerful. The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the primary factors of salvation. When a man places his faith in the salvific work of the cross, the Word of God boldly and plainly declares his salvation is made sure. We are not saved by works (Eph2:8) lest any man should boast. Circumcision will not save you! Worship on Saturday will not save you! Baptism will not save you! Communion will not save you! Holiness standards will not save you! Only the blood of Jesus can wash away your sins.

No wonder Paul said, "I'm glad I didn't baptize any of you." No wonder he further declared, "I only want to know among you Jesus Christ and Him crucified." It is a simple gospel that becomes complex in the hands of the legalist.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Renewing Faith

It occurs to me over and over again, that we are people of faith. That being said, it is amazing how quickly we lose heart and fall prey to the idea that things are supposed to be concrete, for our prayers to be answered immediately and in the manner we desire them. However, faith is far different from that.

Faith encompasses everything from our salvation to the way we live our day to day lives. Salvation comes through faith. Just as Abraham, prior to his circumcision (works), was justified by faith, so we are justified in the same manner. We are the seed of Abraham because we have come into the faith family.

Abraham, the father of those who are filled with faith, is noted at least twice in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. Most people think of the faith of Abraham based on his willingness to trust God when Jehovah asked him to offer his son Isaac on the altar of sacrifice. While this was indeed a noble event, it is not perhaps the greatest display of Abraham's faith. In fact, Hebrews 11 mentions the next act of faith ahead of the Isaac event.

Abraham was told to go and look for a city whose builder and maker was God. And without having to have details or without consulting his GPS....Abraham obeyed and set out, "not knowing where he was going." Friend that is faith of the purest kind. If it had been most of us, we would have demanded a full set of plans, a map, a compass, a survival pack, extra food and the guarantee that in x number of days we'd find that city. Well....guess what? Abraham died having never found it...yet. One day he will see it and live in it! But he died with the promise and died with his faith intact.

Faith is that blessed element that keeps us going in that interim of time between the giving of a promise and the fulfillment of it. Only God is privy to the time-period in between. We are only asked to trust Him. Oh that we had the faith least the depth of faith as Abraham. If God doesn't answer your prayer the way you wanted Him to ....or if God doesn't answer your prayer within in the time you would like Him to....will you still trust Him?

This is why we must renew our faith. Faith is not some stupid idea. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for and evidence of things not seen." We understand that faith must be rooted in something with substance and that in time provides evidence. This is why faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Anything of real faith has substance in God's word. We lay hold on a promise and then cling to it until it comes to pass in God's time. This is indeed faith that pleases God. The just truly live by faith.

May you be encouraged to live in the simple faith and trust of knowing and believing all that God is, says and does.

Tim Estes
Aug 12, 2010

Monday, May 31, 2010

A Day To Remember

On this Memorial Day my mind travels through the history of our beloved nation. I am very appreciative of the teachers in my life who have kept alive our history, and by doing so, have preserved some hope for our nation. Around this world are cemeteries filled with the bodies of American men and women who paid the ultimate price for freedom. Yet, I cannot think of a single cemetery in America where troops from some other country came to defend us with the lives of their people.

America is a special place. We have been blessed more than we deserve. Somehow I believe that the reason for our blessings is due to the reason for our existence as a nation. We were founded so that men could have a place to worship God according to the dictates of their hearts. Please understand that there was no worship of Hindu gods, or Buddah, or any other false deity. They came to America to worship the One True and Living Jehovah God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything about our beginnings as a nation spoke of our independence from tyranny, and of our total dependance upon God. Such facts are engraved in the marble and granite that bedeck the beauty of our nations capital. It is on our currency...."In God We Trust!"

Somehow we've been so blessed that we have forgotten what brought us these blessings. It is imperative that this generation catch the responsibility to return to trusting God. Nobody in this country is owed anything! We have the right to pursue happiness, the right to liberty, and the right to life. Other than that, take responsibility for your own actions, your work ethic, your moral values and dedicate your life to preserving what others have laid down their lives for.

Our history rumbles with the sounds of the muskets of the Civil War, the trench warfare of WW1, the Naval Turrets of WW2, the Helicopters and 50 calibers of the Vietnam and Korean Wars, the awesome air bombardments of Desert Storm and Gulf Wars. Righteousness will always be a target, but it will always win....if we call upon God to be our Keeper.

We cannot separate God and the Church from the status and success of America. We are responsible to keep the fires of hope burning by passing on the history and values, including sacrifice, which has made America the greatest nation on earth. Today, we remember.